NOTHING is sweeter than clinching a third straight NCAA men’s basketball title.
But for San Beda senior guard Anjo Caram, winning his last game in a Red Lions uniform and making his family proud was definitely more satisfying.
Of the 18,187 crowd that trooped at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum for the NCAA men’s basketball championship duel between the Red Lions and Letran Knights, three people mattered most for the silent assassin.
Caram’s mom, dad, and elder brother flew in all the way from Iloilo to watch him play the game of his life. All three had never missed a single championship game of the Red Lions as they shuffled to and from Manila during the finals.
He didn't disappoint them.
The San Beda guard led the defending champions with 17 points on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown. He also had five rebounds, and two assists in a performance that certainly didn’t disappoint his family, which didn’t mind travelling back and forth just to support the younger between two brothers.
“Worth it ang pag-travel nila. Dumating sila noong Thursday last week (for Game One), natalo kami ng Saturday (sa Game Two) bumalik sila sa Iloilo after. Tapos ngayon ulit,” shared Caram in the din of the Red Lions’ celebration after their 67-39 rout of the Knights on Friday.
“Ngayon kasi last year ko na, kaya kahit mag-pabalik-balik sila, ok lang. Kasi di na nila ako mapapanood maglaro para sa San Beda ulit.”
Basketball has been in the genes of the Carams as his parents were varsity players in high school in their province.
That’s the reason why he dedicated the win – and final NCAA championship – to his dad and mom.
“Para ‘to (championship) sa family ko,’ he said.
The senior guard was certainly disheartened after the Red Lions lost to the Knights in Game Two. But going to the decisive winner-take-all match, he received the best piece of advice from no less than his parents.
“Sabi lang nila laruin ko lang yung game ko, wag na masyado mag-isip, and maging confident lang,” were his parents words for him.
He did just that and emerged as the best player for the Red Lions in the biggest game of the season.
“Sabi ko nga ma-play lang ‘yung game plan namin. Defense lang, kahit di ako maka-shoot basta defense lang. Ma-limit ko lang yung scorers nila. Bonus na lang maka-shoot,” he said.
Looking back to the start of the season, Caram is one proud Lion judging from the way the entire San Beda team managed to hurdle the trouble they went through on the way to winning a third straight title.
“Siguro kasi sa sobrang dami lang ng pinag-daanan this year. ‘Nung first game we started with six players lang at nanalo pa, so sobrang thankful kami na kahit ang daming nangyari samin nakuha pa rin naming yung championship,” he said.
The thought of at least going out on a winning note motivated him to play his best during the winner-take-all.
"Kasi pag hindi ka nag-champion sa final year dadalhin mo yun habang buhay mo, kaya sabi ko bibigay ko na talaga lahat."
For Caram, winning isn’t only for himself, his team, and family, but also for the whole San Beda community, which supported the Red Lions every step of the way.
And what better way to thank them than to present that shiny championship trophy.
"Ito rin ang way na magpa-thank you kami sa (San Beda) community. Ang laki ng naitulong nila sa amin," he said.